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What Would York County Look Like if We All Embraced Aging?

What Would York County Look Like if We All Embraced Aging?

Only 30% of our aging is genetic. The other 70% is related to lifestyle and environment. Because no two people are exactly the same, we each experience our aging differently based on our:

  • Culture
  • Family
  • Housing
  • Finance
  • Nutrition
  • Education
  • Exercise
  • Employment
  • Health Care
  • Experiences

As we do, we each deserve choices to help us have the best aging experience possible.

With almost 450,000 people living in York County, a “one size fits all solution” just won’t do. But how can we possibly be a place that works for so many unique aging stories?

The solution is in these eight simple words... Does this work for people of all ages
Asking this question ensures everything we plan and do considers the needs and desires of all age groups. This results in accessible, safe, comfortable, and welcoming choices in:

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Outdoor spaces and buildings
  • Civic participation and employment
  • Community support and health services
  • Communication and information
  • Social participation

Okay, you say, that sounds logical, but what does it mean?

What would a grocery store look like if we all embraced aging?
Let’s look at a grocery store as an example. What changes could be incorporated into a grocery store that makes it more accessible, safe, comfortable, and welcoming, no matter your age?

  • Non-skid floors
  • Shelving that is neither too high or low
  • Easy-to-read signage
  • Emergency call buttons throughout the store
  • Shopping carts with built-in seats and magnifiers attached
  • Chairs with arms set around the perimeter for quick breaks or shopping list adjustments
  • Shopping assistance offered
  • Parking lots and sidewalks are clean and accessible

Great, you say, so let’s do it! Well, not so fast.
There are inherent challenges in applying this type of thinking. For instance, having chairs at the end of aisles in a grocery store uses valuable sell space, which may cause economic challenges.

But notice that I say may: businesses that are designed for all ages may experience the exact opposite. They may see a surge in revenues. Their customers enjoy their shopping experience so much that they become more loyal to the business and tell all their family and friends.

Why is this so important?
The average life expectancy is longer. The number of people age 65 and older is the highest it has ever been. Two-thirds of all the people who have ever lived past the age of 65 in the entire history of the world are alive today.

Too often, communities are built as if everyone is 30 years old and athletic.

What would happen if:

  • We asked people of all ages what we can do to best meet their needs?
  • We focused on improving accessibility based on functionality for all age groups?

As people live longer, they want to be engaged in the community. Without the physical and organizational structures necessary to help them live easily in their homes and communities, the quality of life—for people of all ages—will be compromised.

York County and its economy depend on our growing older population. They contribute $1 billion to our economy. We want people to grow older here!

So where do we go from here?

  1. We all need to ask ourselves, “What does York County need to look like for us all to embrace our aging?”
  2. Speak up about our ideas and let your voices be heard!

When we do, we’ll ensure planners, developers, business owners, philanthropists, and community organizers create a York County that is a great place to grow older, no matter our age.

Cathy Bollinger
Cathy Bollinger
Managing Director of Embracing Aging, York County Community Foundation

York County Community Foundation’s Embracing Aging improves how people experience aging by making people aware of ageism and its impact and helping organizations be more age friendly. Contact Cathy Bollinger, at cbollinger@yccf.org or 717-848-3733 to learn more about our free resources to disrupt ageism and to join our movement to usher in a new age in York County.